Mobile POS Technology Heightens Overall Customer Experience
For small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in the retail, grocery and liquor segments, the concept of building unique and satisfying customer experiences is more important than ever. It takes more than just providing sought-after products at competitive prices. Today’s customers want to be served in the most efficient and intuitive way possible, and mobile point-of-sale (POS) systems are proving to be a valuable solution in meeting these needs.
From line-busting and convenience to fast and efficient bill pay to scanning coupons and providing promotional support, mobile POS solutions deliver wireless connectivity for optimizing service while simultaneously increasing sales. This is a strong product segment, with mobile POS unit sales reaching $1.1 billion in 2011 and numbers expected to continue growing according to Wintergreen Research; sales are estimated to nearly triple over the next five years, reaching $3.1 billion by 2018.
In simple terms, a mobile POS system puts the entire store within the hands of its employees. These handheld devices allow customer service reps to answer questions, look up prices, access inventory and stock, and contact suppliers all from the same system without ever leaving the side of the customers. With these benefits in mind, let’s take a look at some of the key advantages of today’s mobile POS solutions.
Inventory and Back-Office Support
With applications for labor costing, workforce management, merchandising, and warehouse management, mobile POS systems can improve employee deployment efficiency, help ensure products are in stock, and increase sales.
With a mobile device, employees can scan an item right from the shelf and make any necessary price adjustments while on the sales floor. The item will ring up with the new price within seconds. If an employee discovers that an item is out of stock, they can reorder it immediately from the sales floor. Retailers can also keep watch for items that are running low, allowing reorders to occur even before an item runs out of stock. Customers and staff will both appreciate this proactive method of inventory, ensuring that products are always available when they are needed.
Loyalty Programs and the Value of Customer Data
Another trend hitting the POS space is the integration of customer loyalty programs. These days, every business from grocery and liquor stores to just about any retailer in the mall is offering some type of rewards program for regular customers. Integrating these programs with mobile POS systems enables sales associates to sign up new customers in minutes while allowing customers to receive and redeem special offers immediately. By connecting a mobile POS system with a store’s customer relationship management (CRM) solution, retailers can track just about every aspect of the customer’s buying experience – (How much they spend? How often they shop? How many items they buy?) – while providing a more personal sales approach.
Mobile POS systems can also be used to scan customers in purchase lines, where digital ads and coupons can be generated based on their gender, age, etc. to increase impulse buys at the register. With access to this data, retailers can effectively choose what promotional deals to offer customers in the future. By targeting promotions, managers can focus on discounts and programs that will profit the store, encourage loyal customers to return, and even encourage new customers to make purchases.
In addition to reducing checkout times, mobile POS solutions can also enhance consumer engagement and convenience at checkout by accommodating a growing demand from savvy consumers to accept all forms of payment. This can include NFC-based mobile wallets; contactless and smartcard EMV chip-based payments; and traditional credit, debit and gift cards. New mobile POS solutions are also able to print or e-mail receipts as well as apply item- and transaction-level discounts.
Having reviewed some of the features and clear benefits of a mobile POS system, the next step is to look at considerations for getting started.
Rugged Devices for All Day Use
Mobile POS solutions come in all different shapes and sizes, from smartphones and consumer-grade tablets to handheld computers and rugged tablets. Because these devices will become central to so much of a retailer’s business, it is critical to select a product that is designed to withstand the rigors of a typical day on the job. Spending hours checking inventory or helping to speed check-out lines requires a system that is lightweight, easy to handle, and durable while still providing a long, full-shift battery life. If these requirements are not met, the technology can become a distraction, which will negate its desired effect.
Typically employees have a head start when it comes to getting up to speed on the new technology. The majority of workers will have personal experience using smartphones and tablets and the touch screen capabilities of most mobile POS solutions have a familiar look and feel. Additionally, the familiarity of the devices also allows for self-service by customers, further increasing overall efficiency and store differentiation.
A good part of training will focus on getting familiar with the range of applications that are being developed for the mobile POS market and how these software solutions affect overall workflow and integrate with existing technologies. There is also the social aspect of the technology in teaching employees how to leverage mobile POS solutions to strengthen interaction with the customers.
Creating unique and more personalized shopping experiences for customers will be a challenge that continues to grow over the years. Linking a mobile POS system to an integrated retail system will streamline operations and allow retailers to focus more on what matters most: the customer. Managers will see immediate benefits in back-office operations, including superior inventory management, and front-house interactions with customers. Through improved interactions between customers and sales personnel and customized offers, retailers will heighten the overall experience for customers.
Written by Ed McCabe, National Sales Manager (Retail), Panasonic